By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Glanbia Foods has purchased the Sartori Foods cheese plant in Blackfoot, Idaho.
The purchase was complete March 15, and Glanbia began cheese production at the plant the next day, said John Mutchler, executive vice president of Glanbia's supply chain.
"This acquisition further demonstrates Glanbia's commitment to innovation and to the long-term sustainability of dairy in Idaho," said Jeff Williams, Glanbia's president and CEO.
The company, the world's largest producer of American-style cheese, said the purchase is part of its efforts to be the most innovative producer of American-style cheese.
The Blackfoot cheese plant represents the "right size" facility to allow Glanbia to take new-product development out of its Cheese Innovation Center to commercial scale in reduced time, he said.
Glanbia has a small innovation center at its plant in Gooding, but is expanding its efforts at a new facility in Twin Falls that will be fully operational in mid-July, Mutchler said.
Glanbia broke ground on the Cheese Innovation Center and the company's new headquarters in downtown Twin Falls last July. The complex will contain the 14,000-foot innovation center and a 35,000-foot office building and is scheduled for completion at the end of June.
The center will contain a cheese-production room, cheese-processing room, a cheese application area with a presentation room and culinary room, and a laboratory for testing different aspects of cheese.
The innovation center will give Glanbia the capability to develop a lot of different cheeses and mimic some of the processes of its customers, such as slicing and shredding, and testing the cheese on other food products, Mutchler said.
Glanbia markets its cheese commercial users, with end customers such as McDonald's and Burger King. Currently, it can get custom orders into production in two or three months. The new plant in Blackfoot will speed up that time frame to as little as a week, he said.
For example, Glanbia produces a lot of pepper cheeses, and a certain customer might want a different type of pepper or a different quantity of peppers. The new plant will allow Glanbia to efficiently and quickly meet that specific request, he said.
The Blackfoot plant is running 400,000 pounds of milk a day, but the plan is to bring that up to 700,000 pounds to 750,000 pounds. The plant is located in a region that has a strong local supply of high-quality milk, which will allow Glanbia to make gold-medal quality cheese that meets its customers' needs, he said.
Glanbia has three facilities in Idaho, including Gooding, Twin Falls and Richfield, where it produces cheese, protein powders for nutritional retail and lactose for infant formula. It has been headquartered in Idaho for 23 years and also operates a cheese plant in Clovis, N.M.
The company produces more than 880 million pounds of cheese annually and ships dairy products to 30 countries.